Shallow deep inside

After Robert Stacy McCain posted this news item, Thread Drift set in, and somewhere in the midst of it RSM offered this observation:

We should be ashamed of things that are shameful. Our aversion to feelings of shame is part of what prevents us from engaging in shameful behaviors, in the same way that feelings of pride and honor encourage us to strive for achievement. We need to step back and examine objectively the popular notion that there is a “true self” whose needs and desires always trump whatever we owe to others. I’ve noticed that the “true self” usually turns out to be a very selfish self, with no sense of social obligation or duty. Whereas the guy holding down a humdrum job to pay the bills for his wife and kids is not celebrated by the therapeutic culture, if he ditches it all to go in search of his “true self” — which quite often involves kinky sexual adventure — then this is applauded as personal growth.

The “true self” is usually imagined as living a more exciting life than the normal, ordinary person. And the Internet encourages the imagination of such a “true self” by providing forums where these Walter Mitty types gather to share their sense of excitement over their fantasies.

They might well learn from the example of Walter Mitty himself, who was, shall we say, decidedly unsuccessful in achieving his own fantasies. Mitty, in fact, is perhaps second only to Horatio Alger in misunderstood cultural memes; often as not, Alger’s heroes reached their goals by the application of good old-fashioned Dumb Luck.

The idea that one’s True Self is someone remarkably special is just about as specious as the claim by various fans of reincarnation that they themselves are the current version of someone famous; simple math and/or history should tell them that the vast majority of them spent their previous lives among the serfs, if not lower. A very wise man with a pipe and ridiculously sized forearms set forth the truth of the matter: “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” So are we all.


  1. fillyjonk »

    23 September 2015 · 9:59 am

    “The “true self” is usually imagined as living a more exciting life than the normal, ordinary person.”

    This is one of the demons that regularly besets me: I am dependable, hard-working, and therefore, I imagine myself as not being very interesting. I think about how uninspiring my obituary would be: “She was always on time, and always dependable.”

    Then again, to quote another well-known individual: “God help me….I cannot do otherwise.”

  2. McGehee »

    24 September 2015 · 7:49 am

    If there is an obituary written for me, it will likely focus on things I didn’t give a rat’s ass about anyway — and certainly won’t when it’s published.

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